I'd Segment That...
Never should you ever skip profiling in onboarding in B2B PLG.
Know thy customer - a testament everyone abides by. But what exactly do you know about your customers? Usage data, inaccurate 3rd party something, and selective user interviews. Is that enough? I think not.
Profile during activation
In B2B PLG (product-led growth), where the sign-up and activation process is self-serve, you need to know (1) who they are, (2) why they came to you, and (3) what they are trying to accomplish. Because only then can you segment usage/revenue data to understand who you are winning with and offer meaningful personalization. This means asking them questions, during onboarding, in a scalable way (not only in selective interviews!).
Profiling impact on activation
Yet many are paralyzed with the old fallacy: onboarding needs to be minimized, and each step removed will lead to a higher activation. This is not true.
Asking meaningful questions right after the sign-up experience *does not* result in drop-off rates in activation. In fact, it often increases them! Because while completing onboarding profiling questions user gets a psychological boost of progression and ends up farther in the overall activation journey. Take it from my experiences at SurveyMonkey, Miro, Amplitude, MongoDB, Similarweb, etc.
And those who mind being profiled aren't worth your time anyway. I heard Darius Contractor's analogy: Putting CrossFit gym on the 2nd floor (initial friction) won’t impact your membership rates (folks come to exercise anyway). As a fellow CrossFitter, I concur.
There are, of course, good practices for profiling:
Stick to ~5-7 questions
On 3-4 screens
No open-ended options - multiple-choice selection only
Only ask what you will use
Give context on why you are asking
Here are my go-to questions for onboarding profiling:
Users’ role (what department/role they play)
Seniority (member, lead, executive, etc - helps with buyer persona identification)
Intent (looking around or ready to engage)
Use Case (great opportunity to showboat your use cases to create awareness too!)
Company size (3rd party data sources are not accurate for <1000 emp companies)
Team configuration (Join existing or create new)
The customer benefits include messaging (in-app & email) that:
Speaks their language
Addresses their problems
An appropriate level of expectations of what they can/should do (nothing is more annoying than sales outreach if I'm not a buyer or want to look around)
Appropriate resources/help based on their needs
Love mark/delight experiences that demonstrate you *get* them
Across acquisition/ retention/ monetization metrics to understand *whom* you are winning with and where there are opportunities
Prioritize efforts on specific user case/persona
Set appropriate expectations on what a successful outcome looks like for each customer segment
Uncover adjacent users/use cases
The basis for product personalization
The first segmentation exercise you should do is on monetization. Start with direct vs. indirect monetization outcomes. Understanding the correct denominator for direct, revenue-capture monetization efforts will help you understand whether your user base is healthy. The direct monetization segment comes in with work intent, ready to start, in your core use case.
The rest are subject to indirect monetization goals. Let them explore and nurture their potential work intent. They just might bring more high-intent users your way.
Bonus! collecting future/adjacent use cases informs PMF expansion and de-risks bigger product bets.
Escalate to personalization based on segmentation. Start with personalizing user communication via email, in-app notifications, and even product experience.
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It's a constant fight against minimizing onboarding. Somewhere, the cult of "low-friction" took hold and they let new users fall on their face without support. Love that more people are pushing that onboarding actually is good. It's about momentum and quality of progress.
Great post Elena. Few things that I'd like to add:
1. Stick to the rule of 3 and ask three questions in 3 screens instead of 5-7 screens.
2. Ask for the tools that the user currently uses. In case they need to integrate the tool with your product in the activation profiling questions.
3. Today you can safely assume that there is no green field opportunity, this means that your target user is using an alternative product. Your product is going to help them do something better or faster. So it might serve you well if you can get an estimate of how much they are using this alternative product/method. For example, the number of records (range) in their CRM.